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Topic: contraception mandate

Elizabeth Warren Stops Pretending

Yesterday on Twitter, the Senate Democrats sent out a message that seemed to attribute the following paraphrased declaration to Elizabeth Warren: “Remember the government shutdown? That was started by a GOP effort to let employers deny workers access to birth control.” Because it was unclear, and because this statement is so utterly and obviously false, Twitter users were left wondering if Warren could really have said something so outrageously fictitious. It turned out that, yes, Warren made this comment, having finally and fully descended into self-parody.

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Yesterday on Twitter, the Senate Democrats sent out a message that seemed to attribute the following paraphrased declaration to Elizabeth Warren: “Remember the government shutdown? That was started by a GOP effort to let employers deny workers access to birth control.” Because it was unclear, and because this statement is so utterly and obviously false, Twitter users were left wondering if Warren could really have said something so outrageously fictitious. It turned out that, yes, Warren made this comment, having finally and fully descended into self-parody.

The Washington Examiner’s Ashe Schow posted the video and transcript of Warren’s remarks in context. Here is what the senator said:

In 2012, the Republicans tried to pass the Blunt amendment, a proposal that would have allowed employers and insurance companies to deny women access to health care services based on any vague moral objections.

Democrats said ‘no.’ The president said ‘no.’ The American people said ‘no’ to this offensive idea.

But instead of listening to the American people, Republicans in Washington doubled down.

Remember last year’s government shutdown that nearly tanked our economy? That fight started with a GOP effort to hold the whole operation of the federal government hostage in order to try to force Democrats and the president to let employers deny workers access to birth control.

Well, we rejected the hostage-taking. Democrats said ‘no.’ The president said ‘no.’ The American people said ‘no’ to this offensive idea.

Schow explains, in case any readers were foolish enough to believe Warren, how none of Warren’s claim is true. The government shutdown, of course, was not about birth control but about a budget impasse and features native to ObamaCare (which the contraception mandate was not), and their selective enforcement.

Additionally, no one, under any reading of this controversy, was trying to “deny women access” to anything. The only question was whether some companies with religious objections to possible abortifacients would be forced to pay for services that violate their beliefs while still paying for 80 percent of birth control products. But again, that wasn’t the issue over which the government was shut down anyway.

As I have noted, joining the Senate seems to have erased any attempt at seriousness left over from Warren’s previous career as a consumer advocate. Conservatives have been disappointed because the intellectual bankruptcy of modern liberalism has left them with few liberals capable of conducting an intelligent debate on policy. Warren seemed to present a real challenge to conservatives, but she dropped her academic pretensions before she even joined the Senate, having run her campaign not on policy but on fabricated “war on women” victimhood and rants against “Big Oil.”

Warren has revealed herself to be a conventional leftist, and that’s why her made-up storylines about birth control actually matter. As Mary Katherine Ham notes over at Hot Air:

Back in 2013, at the time of the shutdown, she was saying the same thing because the entire strategy for this great, fresh intellectual hope of the Democratic Party is to yell about how no one can achieve anything outside the collective, and unless the collective provides every single necessity for basic living, free of cost, we are cast into the darkest of ages. It makes no difference to her that birth control was readily available to everyone, subsidized and provided free by the government, and covered by almost all employer-based insurance plans before a bureaucrat at Health and Human Services decided to force every employer in America to provide it without a copay, regardless of their religious beliefs. It was even available to Hobby Lobby employees before the Hobby Lobby case was decided and will remain available to them after that decision.

Indeed, the left was overjoyed at the prospect of Warren joining the Senate because it would put a faux-intellectual sheen on their unflinching statist impulses. Warren wasted no time in delivering on that promise, but she has gradually lost the ability to act as though there’s more to her liberalism than increasing and overusing government authority. After a center-left think tank criticized Warren’s Occupy Wall Street populism, she used her perch on the Senate Banking Committee to demand that think tanks disclose their Wall Street donors to discredit any pro-business scholarship and so she would know precisely who in the private sector dared criticize her.

Warren is fighting a battle against reality and good governance in the name of expanded and intrusive government power. She has also, apparently, given up pretending otherwise.

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Hobby Lobby Critics Demonize Belief

The legal and political world is awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case with bated breath. The court’s ruling will determine whether the Obama administration’s efforts to restrict religious freedom or the plaintiffs’ belief that faith may be practiced in the public square will prevail. The arguments over the merits of the case in which the government’s attempt to impose a contraception and abortion drug mandate on private businesses as well as religious institutions have been endlessly rehearsed as a sidebar to the general debate about ObamaCare. But, as I noted earlier this year, rather than confining the debate to the question of constitutional rights, critics of the plaintiffs in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius have done their best to portray the business owners who seek to strike down the government mandate as not merely wrong but a threat to liberty.

In order to do this, the administration and its cheering section in the mainstream media have sought to transform the debate from one that centers on government using its power to force people of faith to choose between their religion and their business to the dubious notion that dissenters from the mandate wish to impose their beliefs on others. This is a false premise since even if the owners of Hobby Lobby win, its employees won’t be prevented from obtaining birth control or abortion-inducing drugs. The only thing that will change is whether their Christian employers will be forced to pay for them.

But efforts to demonize Hobby Lobby are not confined to these specious arguments. As today’s feature in Politico on the Green family shows, the goal of the liberal critics of Hobby Lobby isn’t so much to draw the line on religious freedom as it is to depict their foes as crazy religious extremists who want to transform America into a “Christian nation.” That this is an unfair distortion of their intent as well as the point of the court case goes without saying. But the fact that mainstream publications feel free to mock the Greens in this manner tells us exactly why the plaintiffs’ fears about restrictions on religious freedom may be justified.

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The legal and political world is awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case with bated breath. The court’s ruling will determine whether the Obama administration’s efforts to restrict religious freedom or the plaintiffs’ belief that faith may be practiced in the public square will prevail. The arguments over the merits of the case in which the government’s attempt to impose a contraception and abortion drug mandate on private businesses as well as religious institutions have been endlessly rehearsed as a sidebar to the general debate about ObamaCare. But, as I noted earlier this year, rather than confining the debate to the question of constitutional rights, critics of the plaintiffs in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius have done their best to portray the business owners who seek to strike down the government mandate as not merely wrong but a threat to liberty.

In order to do this, the administration and its cheering section in the mainstream media have sought to transform the debate from one that centers on government using its power to force people of faith to choose between their religion and their business to the dubious notion that dissenters from the mandate wish to impose their beliefs on others. This is a false premise since even if the owners of Hobby Lobby win, its employees won’t be prevented from obtaining birth control or abortion-inducing drugs. The only thing that will change is whether their Christian employers will be forced to pay for them.

But efforts to demonize Hobby Lobby are not confined to these specious arguments. As today’s feature in Politico on the Green family shows, the goal of the liberal critics of Hobby Lobby isn’t so much to draw the line on religious freedom as it is to depict their foes as crazy religious extremists who want to transform America into a “Christian nation.” That this is an unfair distortion of their intent as well as the point of the court case goes without saying. But the fact that mainstream publications feel free to mock the Greens in this manner tells us exactly why the plaintiffs’ fears about restrictions on religious freedom may be justified.

In Politico’s telling, the Greens are religious fanatics who not only are willing to conduct their businesses along religious lines, including closing their chain of hobby stores on Sunday, but also want to promote their beliefs to others. The Greens may wind up investing hundreds of millions of their vast fortune to the building of a Bible museum in Washington D.C. The also want to promote Bible study and a funding a textbook and curriculum about religious studies they’d like to see be adopted by school systems. According to Politico, these efforts are stirring concern in the ranks of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and other liberal organs.

Were one of the Greens running for national political office, all this would, of course, be fair game. But it bears repeating that these people are private individuals who are merely using their personal resources to do exactly what the Founders sought to guarantee for all Americans: express their opinions and practice their faith without government interference.

As with their views about contraception or abortion, you don’t have to agree with the Greens to understand that they have every right to practice their faith and to promote their ideas. These are, as Politico admits, not your typical tycoons. They are more interested in faith than profit and are willing to stake their fortune on a fight to preserve their ability to conduct business without being forced to violate their religious beliefs. That may be alien to the mindset of many Americans in an era where much of our popular culture rests on the premise that we live in a world where there is no God and that those whose lives are built on faith are somewhat screwy. But the notion that such people, even very rich ones who build museums and promote Bible study, are a threat to non-believers is utterly fanciful.

Contrary to their government opponents in their lawsuit, the Hobby Lobby owners are not trying to force the actions of others to conform to their beliefs. What they want is to be left alone to practice their faith while also trying to persuade others to share it. Bible study may not be everyone’s cup of tea but the notion that it is a threat to democracy would have been hard to sell to this nation’s Founders. The attacks on the Greens illustrate the intolerance of openly expressed faith that is at the core of the mandate the administration is seeking to enforce. The Greens are no threat to the liberty of non-believers who need not visit their bible museum nor read the religious materials they publish. But a government, egged on by a liberal media establishment, that can’t tolerate Hobby Lobby’s practices is one that has little interest in defending anyone’s religious freedom. In such an atmosphere, it’s little wonder that Hobby Lobby’s advocates see the outcome of this case as a crucial moment in the fight to defend constitutional liberty.

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RE: GOP Hoof-in-Mouth Outbreak Helps Dems

I agree with Jonathan that Mike Huckabee was entirely correct in what he said about the birth-control mandate and hopelessly wrong in how he said it. Making birth control a mandatory entitlement under ObamaCare doesn’t make it “free” and it diminishes everyone’s freedom in the process. And giving liberals an easy way to distort what he said just allows the mainstream media—whose attention to journalistic due diligence is non-existent when it comes to politics—to beat up conservatives, claiming proof of a “war on women.” (By the way, could someone please ask a liberal talking head, the next time he or she invokes that phrase, why a political party in a democracy would declare “war” on a majority of the electorate? Republicans, after all, want to win elections as much as Democrats do. Declaring war on most voters seems a strange way to achieve victory.)

So how can Republicans attack the birth-control mandate without being declared at war with women? How about just looking at the economics of it, which are very simple? Birth control isn’t expensive, I’m told, (about $25 a month). So why should it be covered by insurance at all? Insurance is meant to protect people from unpredictable and catastrophic expenses that they can’t budget for. That’s why automobile insurance covers collision and liability, not oil changes and tire rotations.

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I agree with Jonathan that Mike Huckabee was entirely correct in what he said about the birth-control mandate and hopelessly wrong in how he said it. Making birth control a mandatory entitlement under ObamaCare doesn’t make it “free” and it diminishes everyone’s freedom in the process. And giving liberals an easy way to distort what he said just allows the mainstream media—whose attention to journalistic due diligence is non-existent when it comes to politics—to beat up conservatives, claiming proof of a “war on women.” (By the way, could someone please ask a liberal talking head, the next time he or she invokes that phrase, why a political party in a democracy would declare “war” on a majority of the electorate? Republicans, after all, want to win elections as much as Democrats do. Declaring war on most voters seems a strange way to achieve victory.)

So how can Republicans attack the birth-control mandate without being declared at war with women? How about just looking at the economics of it, which are very simple? Birth control isn’t expensive, I’m told, (about $25 a month). So why should it be covered by insurance at all? Insurance is meant to protect people from unpredictable and catastrophic expenses that they can’t budget for. That’s why automobile insurance covers collision and liability, not oil changes and tire rotations.

If it did cover them, what would happen? Suppose an oil change costs $25 and you need four a year. Right now, the car owner just goes to his garage and pays them $100 a year to change the oil in his car. But if oil changes were covered by his insurance, the insurance company would pay for them, shelling out $100 as well. But where does that $100 comes from? It comes from the insurance premiums paid by the car owner, of course. So it’s not insurance at all, it’s a prepayment plan, no different from layaway plans at department stores of old.

But there’s more. The insurance company has overhead to cover. If it pays for oil changes, it must keep track of them, account for them, cut checks for them, audit those accounts, etc. etc. The car owner must pay for that too. And he has to pay for the profit the insurance company needs to stay in business.

So instead of the oil changes costing the car owner $100 a year, they would cost him, say, $144. The only difference is that instead of paying $25 every three months to his garage, he pays $12 more a month in premiums to his insurance company.

It’s the same with birth-control pills. Women can pay for them themselves or pay more to an insurance company to pay for them. ObamaCare forces women to choose the more expensive alternative. So who’s really at war with women?

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Don’t Let Technocrats Set the Terms of the ObamaCare Debate

Now that the utterly disastrous rollout of ObamaCare has outlasted the government shutdown, it’s the Democrats’ turn for some unflattering time in the media spotlight. But the conservative reaction to the ObamaCare belly flop risks letting Democrats shift the conversation onto more favorable terrain, and demonstrates the extent to which some big-government victories cannot be completely rolled back.

Conservatives have noted that ObamaCare’s early failures are indicative of a broader failure of the technocratic approach to governing. This is undoubtedly true, but I don’t expect this argument to lead where many conservatives think it leads. The federal government has failed in the past and will fail again–the latter point being key. The government will at some point get the chance to attempt a massive top-down reform that centralizes power in the hands of well-meaning but completely incompetent technocrats because of the simple reality of modern American politics.

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Now that the utterly disastrous rollout of ObamaCare has outlasted the government shutdown, it’s the Democrats’ turn for some unflattering time in the media spotlight. But the conservative reaction to the ObamaCare belly flop risks letting Democrats shift the conversation onto more favorable terrain, and demonstrates the extent to which some big-government victories cannot be completely rolled back.

Conservatives have noted that ObamaCare’s early failures are indicative of a broader failure of the technocratic approach to governing. This is undoubtedly true, but I don’t expect this argument to lead where many conservatives think it leads. The federal government has failed in the past and will fail again–the latter point being key. The government will at some point get the chance to attempt a massive top-down reform that centralizes power in the hands of well-meaning but completely incompetent technocrats because of the simple reality of modern American politics.

The inadvisability of the expansion of the welfare state was clear before ObamaCare became law. But it was enacted anyway because Democrats had enough votes in Congress to approve it, and because Democrats held the White House, thus preventing a veto. Give the technocrats some credit: they may not be able to build a website (in 2013!), but they can do basic math. They also know that voters don’t like to give up entitlements, no matter the condition of the federal budget or the efficacy of the programs.

Medicaid is a perfect example of the latter, because studies show its beneficiaries are better off without it, health-wise. Medicaid also has some relevance to the ObamaCare debate because that failed program is a key component of this new one: ObamaCare expands insurance in part by expanding Medicaid. We have the data on Medicaid, yet we also got ObamaCare. Why? Because the people to whom it is possible to discredit big-government technocracy are not elected Democrats.

Now, it’s true that the discrediting of left-liberal technocrats can prevent a recurrence of federal power grabs in the near term, not least by capitalizing on the initial voter opposition to the expansion of the welfare state before it’s too late to kick the habit of the latest entitlement and thus turn Democrats out of office in favor of non-Democrats. But how is that working for the GOP these days? ObamaCare has been unpopular all along, yet its namesake president was reelected and the Democrats held the Senate.

Ross Douthat gets at this reality in his insightful Sunday column, but only hints at the underlying dynamic. He writes that if the ObamaCare web portal doesn’t get fixed and the individual mandate must be delayed, the much-feared “death spiral,” in which only the least healthy–and thus most expensive–sign up for insurance, causing the system’s financial collapse, could ensue. If that happens, Douthat writes, “there will be a lot of schadenfreude on the right at the spectacle of technocratic failure. But the wreck of the exchanges may actually be worse for conservative policy objectives than a more successful rollout would have been.” The reason for that is:

In that scenario, the Democratic Party would probably end up pushing, not for the pipe dream of true single payer, but for a further bottom-up/top-down socialization, in which Medicare is offered to 55- to 65-year-olds and Medicaid is eventually expanded even more.

Meanwhile, the task for serious conservative reformers — already not the most politically effective bunch — might actually become harder, because they would have to explain how their plan to build an effective, exchange-based marketplace differed from the Obama White House’s exchange fiasco.

Implicit in this explanation is the partisan divide. Douthat, a conservative reformer himself, worries that health-care technocrats will be discredited–on the right. This goes back to my earlier point: big-government technocracy can only be discredited among one of the country’s two major political parties today. That doesn’t mean it will be discredited completely on the right. Mitt Romney was, after all, the party’s presidential nominee a year ago.

So Douthat is left with what strikes me as an unbelievably depressing conclusion:

So while Republican politicians may be salivating over a potential Obamacare crisis, the conservative policy thinkers I know are not. They’re hoping, as I’m hoping, that this isn’t as bad as it looks. The chance to say “I told you so” is always nice, but not if the price is a potentially irrecoverable disaster.

That boils down to: the Democrats are in the process of at least partially ruining a major American industry; if the project goes off the rails, the Democrats will in all likelihood completely destroy the industry.

And herein lies the admittedly modest victory of ObamaCare, and the left more generally. The core argument against ObamaCare was not that it would fail, but that it was unconstitutional. Even John Roberts seemed to agree, otherwise he would have had no reason to take the objectionable step of rewriting the law from the bench in order to uphold its legality.

And what did Americans discover about ObamaCare long before the fact that its web design seemed to be sketched by crayon on a placemat? They found out that it mandated contraception coverage, yet another violation of Americans’ constitutional rights. Is the argument against the birth-control mandate that it is too expensive? Perhaps that argument can be made, but it is obviously not the real issue. The real issue is that it is a brazen violation of the First Amendment.

To be sure, ObamaCare is also unlikely to be a success, though that of course depends on the metric used make such a judgment. But the birth-control mandate is quite likely to be “successful,” in that it will do exactly what Democrats designed it to do and put the government in the bedroom of every American so that it can pay for what transpires therein. And in that case, its very success is the reason to argue against it: the law tramples on basic American rights.

There is, certainly, something attractive about arguing against technocracy based on numbers instead of principles. The media doesn’t take seriously the principled arguments because the American left thinks the basis for the Bill of Rights is inoperable and inherently ridiculous. When Breitbart’s Ben Shapiro debated CNN’s Piers Morgan on gun control, Shapiro posited that the Founders believed the individual right to bear arms was a guard against tyranny. CNN’s website offers this recounting of part of the exchange:

“They need them for the prospective possibility of resistance to tyranny,” he explained.

“Where do you expect the tyranny to come from?” wondered Morgan.

“It could come from the United States,” came Shapiro’s answer.

“Do you understand how absurd you sound?” asked the host.

It is quite true that the Founders envisioned constitutional rights as a bulwark against the rise of a tyrannical government. But the left seems to believe that those rights don’t go into force until tyranny is imminent; therefore, any suggestion that we do something because the Constitution advises it is itself an accusation that the government is already casting the shadow of tyranny over the republic.

Conservatives can and should argue that the technocratic impulses of the left lead to bad policy. They plainly do. And the right’s options may be limited now that ObamaCare has survived the individual mandate’s Supreme Court challenge. But conservatives will be making a mistake if they decry technocrats yet allow them to set the boundaries of political debate.

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